Veloforte Energy Bars – Review

Veloforte offer a range of energy bars designed to fuel endurance athletes whilst using natural ingredients.

I’m always keen to try different products to fuel my long runs and races and I much prefer to eat things with “real food” in them rather relying on gels. Veloforte offer just that, tasty products using natural ingredients. Inspired by the Italian Panforte – a special food that was reputed to fuel the Roman Legions – Veloforte bars are now hand made in the UK. The bars come in three flavours; Classico, Ciocco and Di Bosco and each have their own distinctive taste. The Classico has a slightly Christmas cake taste with its candied peel and orange zest, the Ciocco a deep cocoa whilst pistachios and berries flavour the Di Bosco bar. (I personally prefer the deep, dark yet not too sweet chocolate taste of the Ciocco bar.)

photo of Veloforte energy bars

Veloforte, Italian inspired energy bars

The bars come individually wrapped as a 70g serving with just less than 300Kcal per bar so contain plenty of energy to fuel long days on the hill. The bars are quite dense and chewy so are more suited to use on ultra type events or long training sessions rather than as a quick fix during a shorter race. All three bars also contain almonds and have around 5g of protein so make a good post run snack to help recovery.

photo of Veloforte Ciocco bar

datey, nutty, chocolatey – tasty!

As well as being available as individually wrapped bars Veloforte also offer a Mixed Bites bag. This contains all three flavours of bar but pre cut into bite sized pieces. This is ideal if you want to eat little and often and solves the problem of what to do with a half eaten, unwrapped bar. The bite sized pieces come in a handy zip lock type bag which is ideal for stuffing into your bumbag or running pack pocket for easy access on the go.

photo of Veloforte Mixed Bites

handy bite sized lumps in the Mixed Bites bag

Verdict – Tasty with good blend of Carbohydrate and Protein and using natural ingredients, Veloforte bars are ideal for fueling long distance endurance events. I’d include them in my nutrition for events such as the High Peak Marathon or the Bob Graham Round where the pace is slow enough in places to allow you to chew and breathe at the same time! They also make a good post race snack.

photo showing Veloforte nutrition information

Veloforte nutrition information

Veloforte energy bars are available here: https://veloforte.cc/

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Copper Clothing Compression Socks

I’m a fan of compression socks, so was interested to come across these from Copper Clothing Ltd which have copper infused into the fabric.

Although there is mixed evidence that compression clothing leads to a performance benefit and aids recovery (see here and here), I still think that the jury is out, however, I choose to wear compression socks or calf guards for certain runs. In cold weather I find that they help keep my calves warm, particularly important if I’m doing faster training or hill repetitions. They also help protect my legs if running through bracken or heather and they can also help prevent tick bites in summer where the advice is to cover the skin in known tick habitats.

photo of runner wearing Copper Clothing compression socks

Copper Clothing compression socks

What’s so special about copper? According to Copper Clothing’s website copper has anti-microbial properties which can kill off any bacteria and so help prevent problems such as fungal infections and athlete’s foot. If you’ve ever left a pair of damp running shoes in a warm place for a couple of days the smell will tell you that there’s something starting to fester in there! Wet feet are a fell runner’s occupational hazard all year round, whilst in summer, sweaty feet and moist shoes are are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – have you ever seen a fell runner with nice feet?! So a pair of socks that help keep your feet healthy sounds like a good idea.

photo of running in puddle

wet feet – a fell runner’s occupational hazard

On test – I’ve been testing the socks for a couple of weeks now and have worn them in some pretty soggy conditions. I like the fit which is snug but not too tight and they aren’t too tight across the foot which makes them easy to get on. I had three wet runs in them before washing them, I just hung them on a chair near the radiator to dry out and they didn’t smell! Copper Clothing claim that washing the socks doesn’t diminish the properties of the copper so hopefully the benefits will last for the lifetime of the sock. Time will tell how durable they are.

photo of Copper Clothing socks

snug fit but not too tight

When would I wear them? As well as in the conditions previously mentioned I think these socks would be worth using on long runs when your feet are going to get damp – that could be most of the time in the UK. Or on long runs when your feet are going to get sweaty – which is the rest of the time! They would be ideal for a long “Round” such as the Bob Graham, pity I didn’t have them last year on the Bob Graham Round where I spent 21 hours in the same pair of wet socks!

RRP – £15.99 available here:


 

Verdict – Although I’m not convinced of the benefits of compression in itself, I do like to wear long socks for certain runs. These Copper Clothing socks are comfortable and affordable and hopefully will help keep my feet healthy – quite a challenge considering the amount of time I spend running in wet, muddy conditions.

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Adventure Medical Kits – Emergency Bivvy

If I am running in a remote area or in winter I carry an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy with me.

photo of Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy

This small, lightweight sleeping bag type bivvy bag is a great piece of kit which will take up hardly any room in your bumbag or pack. If the worse thing should happen and you or a mate gets injured whilst out running in bad weather then this could really help prevent hypothermia whilst you wait for mountain rescue.

The bivvy is basically a large bag made of heat reflective polythene that you can get in to. As it is a bag rather than a blanket it traps heat effectively and is totally windproof thus creating a protective environment for anyone who is immobilised. Note that it is not breathable and so condensation will build up in it over time so it is not suitable as a sleeping bag!

photo of Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Adventure Medical Kits heat reflective bivvy bag

Unlike the traditional plastic orange bivvy bag, this version is made of much thinner polythene meaning that it packs far smaller and so is suited to packing into a bumbag or similar. They are available in different sizes i.e. one or two person, I use the smaller version.

Some mountain races and long winter races such as the Trigger have emergency bag /  bivvy on the mandatory kit list. the AMK one is ideal. At around £15 it really is an essential piece of kit for anyone running in more remote areas.

river crossing on the Trigger race

imagine waiting for Mountain Rescue here!

Kahtoola & Chainsen Snowline Microspikes Review

Running in icy conditions can be hazardous but thanks to Microspikes you can still enjoy those cold, crisp winter days.

What are Microspikes?

Basically they are a form of crampon designed for walking or running rather than climbing. They consist of a set of small, stainless steel spikes connected by chains and attached to a piece of tough rubber (an elastomer). They are designed so that they can be worn on your footwear simply by stretching the rubber cradle over your shoes.

photo of Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes attached to a running shoe

Microspikes held in place by a strong rubber cradle

Kahtoola microspikes are probably the best known brand but I also have some Chainsen Snowline Snowspikes which are virtually identical (but a bit cheaper!) I have the Light version which only weigh 235g for a Medium sized pair. The Kahtoolas are slightly heavier at 338g. They are available in different size ranges, I’ve found that you need have them quite tight to prevent them coming off whilst running through deep snow.

Chainsen Snowline Microspikes on scales

The Chainsen Snowline spikes, 235g size Medium

What conditions are they for?

The sharp spikes grip really well on smooth ice and hard packed, frozen snow. It takes a bit of time to build up your confidence but after a while you realise that you can run at your normal pace, even on the iciest of surfaces. Whilst they can be worn in snow they don’t really offer much more grip than a running shoe with a good tread.  They also work well on frozen ground such as grass and mud, even if there is no ice cover. You tend to find that you alter your stride slightly and land more flat footed than you would ordinarily do. Whilst they aren’t uncomfortable initially they can start to hurt a little if running for long periods on very hard surfaces. I once ran for about 15 miles wearing a pair and the soles of my feet were a bit sore afterwards!

photo of runner wearing Microspikes

Microspikes work best on hard ice

Most winter runs involve a variety of conditions; you might be running through fresh snow where few people have been but then encounter a well walked path where the snow has been compacted and refrozen. The first part wouldn’t require spikes but the second bit could be pretty treacherous. The good thing about both Kahtoola and Chainsen Microspikes is that their size and weight means that they can easily be carried in a bumbag or running pack and it only takes a few seconds to put them on. So you can take them on a run, put them on if you encounter any icy stretches and quickly take them off afterwards. The Chainsen spikes even come in a tough little pouch to prevent the spikes from damaging your bag.

photo of Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

Chainsen Snowline with sturdy pouch

I have used them for winter running in the Peak District and also on a recce of the Charlie Ramsay Round in spring when conditions were still wintry. (note Microspikes are not suitable for ice climbing!)

runner wearing Chainsen Snowline spikes

I used Chainsen Microspikes whilst recceing the Charlie Ramsay Round

Are they worth it?

At around £40 a pair they are worth getting if you intend to continue running outdoors throughout the winter. They don’t need to be confined to running, they can be worn over walking boots and even shoes meaning that you can tackle the icy pavements with confidence. I know people who’ve worn them for a trip to the pub!

So, if we continue to have cold winters a pair of Microspikes are a good investment, allowing you to enjoy running safely in conditions like this!

photo of running wearing microspikes

safe running wearing microspikes

The video below shows how easy the spikes are to put on and how effective they are on icy terrain:



North Wales Trail Running – book review

Following on from the successful Peak District Trail Running and Lake District Trail Running books there is now one for North Wales.

Written by experienced runner Steve Franklin, it follows the same format as the previous books detailing 20 trail and fell runs of various length and difficulty. Each route is described with easy to follow directions backed up by Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map extracts. A brief overview of each route shows distance, ascent, estimated time it will take to run, the type of terrain you’ll encounter and how easy it is to navigate; whilst a graph shows the route profile so you know where the steep sections are!

photo of North Wales Trail Running book

North Wales Trail Running

The guidebook is set out with the shortest route at the beginning and the longest one at the end which makes it easy to thumb through and select a route according to your preferred distance, and its small size means that you can easily slip it into a bumbag or pack if you want to take it with you on the trails.

The colour photographs help give a flavour of what to expect: everything from easy forest trails to sea cliffs and more remote mountain terrain, and with routes ranging from 4km to 20km there is something for the beginner trail runner and the hardened fell runner alike.

North Wales Trail Running by Steve Franklin is published by Vertebrate Publishing RRP £12.95

Other books in the series: https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/lake-district-trail-running-book-review/

There Is No Map In Hell – Review

Most people who climb the 214 Wainwright fells in the Lake District do so over a number of years. In 2014 Steve Birkinshaw managed to complete a continuous circuit of them; over 300 miles and many thousand metres of climb, in just over six and a half days. There is no Map in Hell is Steve’s written account of his tremendous achievement.

There is no Map in Hell

There is no Map in Hell

Legendary Lakeland runner Joss Naylor had completed the round in the 1980’s, taking just over seven days and it was thought that the feat would never again be attempted let alone bettered. However Steve’s background as a highly experienced fell runner specialising in ultra distance challenges (including winning the 2012 Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race) meant that he more than anyone had the fitness and determination to give it a go.

In the book Steve gives an insight into his family background and previous long distance adventures before he moves on to explain what the Wainwrights are and recall some of the history of early attempts by runners to complete the challenge. He describes the huge logistical task of planning the route, calculating a schedule and recruiting a team of helpers. He also discusses his training in preparation for the run.

Steve then gives the reader a day by day account of his progress including details of each leg of his route and recounts his feelings, both physical and mental which unsurprisingly deteriorate as the week goes by. There are also short accounts from Steve’s wife Emma and support crew which give a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes and the highs and lows that they too experienced along the journey.

Steve Birkinshaw during the Wainwrights attempt

Steve during the Wainwrights attempt (from community.berghaus.com)

Finally he describes what he calls “The Aftermath”; the physical and mental toll of running the equivalent of two marathons with over 5,000 metres of ascent a day, every day for a week.

There is no Map in Hell will appeal to any fell runner who is familiar with the Lakeland fells or those who have experienced or are planning their own long distance challenge. Rather than being purely full of facts and statistics it gives an insight into the human side of a determined, family man who pushed his body to extraordinary lengths to achieve a running feat that many thought impossible.

There is no Map in Hell is published by Vertebrate Publishing.

fell running guide

Shoe Cue Insoles Review

Shoe Cue insoles look like an interesting concept designed to prompt runners into adopting a more efficient running technique. They look like a standard insole but with a textured plastic heel plate covered in small pimples which the wearer can feel. The idea is that by being more aware of how your feet are contacting the ground the insoles act as a prompt or “cue”. This encourages you to favour the ball of your foot rather than the heel and thus reduces over striding. That all sounds plausible so I decided to test them out using a bit of sports science technology.

Shoe Cue insoles with the pimpled heel plate

Shoe Cue insoles with the pimpled heel plate

The first thing I did was to go for a short, easy run wearing the insoles to get used to how they felt. I even wore one shoe with a Shoe Cue insole and the other with just the standard insole so that I could compare how they felt.

How do they feel?

You can definitely notice the pimples under your heel, they don’t feel uncomfortable, just unusual and you do get used to them the longer you have them on. Obviously the thinner your sock the more aware you are of the textured heel plate. My first run was on gently sloping, hard packed trail wearing them inside a pair of Inov-8 Trail Talons. I was aware of the insoles although didn’t find them uncomfortable. On my next run I used the same shoes but over terrain with some short, steep up and downhill sections. On the steep downhills the insoles were uncomfortable, especially at a fast pace as more impact was taken through the rear of my foot. (To be fair the insoles probably aren’t designed for that type of terrain)

testing Shoe Cues with Inov-8 Trail Talon 275s

testing Shoe Cues with Inov-8 Trail Talon 275s

Scientific testing

It would be a subjective guess to say if the Shoe Cues made any difference to my running technique so a bit of science was needed. I asked the kind chaps at Front Runner in Sheffield if they could help and they offered carry out a test using their treadmill and RunScribe technology. RunScribe uses small devices attached to each foot which measure data such as Stride Rate, Ground Contact Time (GTC), Braking Force and Footstrike Type (forefoot, mid-foot, heel).

treadmill testing using RunScribe technology

treadmill testing using RunScribe technology

Test protocol

Indoor treadmill wearing Inov-8 Trail Talon 275 shoes. After warming up I ran for 5 minutes at a pace of 10km per hour without the insoles then repeated the 5 mins at the same pace with the Shoe Cue insoles.
I then repeated the 5 mins without / with the insoles but this time at a faster pace of 15km per hour.
The RunScribe data was taken for the middle two minutes of each run.

The results

Shoe Cue test data

10k per hour without insoles

 

Shoe Cue test data

10k per hour with Shoe Cue insoles

The RunScribe data shows that for the slower paced run there is very little difference in stride rate (cadence) and GCT with a slight reduction in braking force with the insoles. The foot strike type (lower number = more heel strike) shows that I actually went a little closer to heel striking whilst wearing the Shoe Cue insoles.

Shoe Cue test data

15k per hour without insoles

 

Shoe Cue test data

15k per hour with Shoe Cue insoles

The RunScribe data for the faster paced run shows almost identical stride rates and GCT with and without the Shoe Cue insoles. As for braking force it decreased on my left foot but increased on my right foot when wearing the insoles (work that one out!) A similar discrepancy with foot strike type saw no change in my left foot whereas my right foot landed closer to the heel whilst wearing the insoles.

Do they work?

That is the big question! The scientific data here certainly doesn’t point to a big change in my own running metrics whilst wearing the insoles, however there could be a number of reasons for this:

  • I’ve been running regularly for many years, performing fairly well in competitions – maybe I already have a reasonably efficient technique?
  • Although I could feel the Shoe Cue insoles I didn’t actively try to change my technique – maybe I also subconsciously resisted changing.
  • It might take a longer period of time to adapt to using the insoles.

A less experienced runner or someone who over strides (having a cadence closer to 160 steps per minute) might find the insoles more beneficial. It is difficult to over stride and still land on your mid-foot, hence how the sensation of feeling the pimples under your heel can help overcome this.

However as with the recent popularity of barefoot, minimalist and zero drop shoes, any change should be made gradually. There are lots of stories of runners who actively tried to change their running technique to a more “efficient” mid-foot landing only to suffer from calf and achilles problems. Anyone trying Shoe Cues should avoid making radical changes to their technique.

Personally I probably won’t use the insoles although I may use them as a coaching tool to lend to clients to enable them to become more aware of their own running technique.

More information on Shoe Cue insoles can be found here: https://www.shoecue.com/

Footnote:

What I also found interesting was that I landed more on my heel the faster I ran whereas you would expect the opposite to be the case. Attentive readers will also note some Left / Right discrepancies particularly regarding pronation (I’ve been told by different physios that I have one leg slightly longer than the other which may explain it)

Thanks to Ali at Front Runner for providing the RunScribe data.

fell running guide

The Protein Ball Co. Review

The Protein Ball Co. are a UK based company producing healthy, high protein snacks using natural ingredients. Neatly packaged in a range of six interesting flavours (I like the Goji and Coconut best!) each 45g bag contains six bite size balls. They are all gluten free and vegetarian with a couple of vegan choices too.

Protein Ball Co.

six interesting flavours

As well as being high in protein they also contain a decent amount of carbohydrate; a 45g bag of Lemon & Pistachio balls contains 187 kcal for example.

Protein Ball calorific content

plenty of calories to fuel long runs

This means that on long events like Ultra races or 24 hour Rounds such as the Bob Graham these would be ideal “hill food”. They are much more palatable than sickly sweet gels and satisfy your hunger unlike a gel. The high protein content also means that they make a great snack immediately after a hard training session or race or following a long run.

Protein Ball Co. each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

each bag contains 6 tasty little balls

At £1.99 for a 45g bag they aren’t particularly cheap and at the moment they aren’t available in supermarkets although they can be found in Holland & Barrett and also purchased online. So if you fancy something healthy, tasty and made in the UK to fuel your running these bite sized little balls are worth a try.

For more details and to find a stockist visit the Protein Ball Co.

fell running guide

Osprey Duro 1.5 Review

Osprey, the Californian company renowned for their packs and rucksacks have introduced a new range of trail running backpacks for Spring 2017 – the Duro. Available in three sizes; 15, 6 and 1.5 litres, here I review the smallest, the 1.5L version.

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

Features:

The Duro 1.5 is a unisex, minimalist vest type pack, available in two sizes; S/M or M/L. It comes supplied with two 250ml soft-flasks with straws. The pack I tested was the S/M version which weighed 283g on my scales (without flasks)

The back of the pack has two zipped pockets with large zip pulls making them easy to open. The smaller pocket has a handy key clip and will just about fit a windproof or minimalist waterproof top whilst the slightly larger, deeper pocket is designed to carry a bladder (not supplied). I found that I could easily fit a set of lightweight waterproofs into the larger pocket.

pockets on Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack

2 rear pockets for kit & optional bladder

On the top of each shoulder there is a small elasticated bungee that is designed to hold a pair of folded walking poles.

There are also two stretch mesh pockets at either side / back of the pack. These can easily take hat, gloves, food etc and I even managed to stuff a small windproof into one.

Osprey Duro 1.5 pack

2 decent sized stretch rear side pockets

On the front there are four stretch pockets, two on each side. The larger, top pockets house the 250ml soft-flasks that come supplied with the pack and have small elasticated retainers to keep the flasks from moving around (these also make a handy attachment point for a compass). The two lower, smaller pockets are again handy for hat, gloves, food and compass. There is also a whistle attached to the inside of one of the upper pockets.

There is also a vertical zip pocket on the front left which is big enough to take a phone or sections of map.

Osprey Duro 1.5 pack

zipped pocket for phone, maps etc

The pack is fastened by two elasticated sternum straps that clip across the chest and can be removed and re-positioned in 6 positions. One of the straps has a magnetic clip designed to hold the drinking tube on the optional bladder. This can be easily removed if you don’t intend to use it. I would take it off so that it doesn’t interfere with your compass. The straps can be easily adjusted to fit your chest size.

Osprey Duro 1.5 running pack front view

stretch pockets and adjustable straps

There are two more adjustment straps on the side allowing the pack to be tensioned according to size of the wearer and how much kit is being carried.

Osprey Duro adjustment

side adjustment strap

The whole frame of the pack is slightly elasticated with a ventilated mesh fabric on the inside where the pack is in contact with your body. The graphics on the pack are reflective which is a useful feature if you find yourself running on unlit roads in the dark.

How it performed:

I wore the Duro 1.5 over a couple of weeks, with and without the soft-flasks on runs of up to 10 miles at different paces and also lent it to clients on group runs to get their feedback. My first impression was that it was very comfortable to wear, fitting snugly without being too restrictive as the material stretches slightly as you move and breathe. The bottles didn’t bounce excessively even when running at a fast pace. I was impressed by the amount of storage there is despite the pack’s small size; hat, gloves, map, compass, whistle, food, drink and phone are all accessible without having to take the pack off.

If you intend to use the large rear pocket to carry items you need to pack it so that nothing digs into your back (just as you would with other lightweight packs) and the rear / side pockets are difficult to reach whilst wearing the pack. I found a way of reaching round the back with both hands that helped me remove and replace things from these pockets – ok at easy jog pace but difficult to do whilst running quickly!

Osprey Duro 1.5

reaching the rear side pockets was tricky!

The supplied soft-flasks are only 250 ml each. This has pros and cons – the weight is more evenly distributed, particularly if you only take one flask but at the price of not being able to carry much drink. I would prefer larger flasks (I tend to only take one flask as it’s less hassle – only 1 to fill and clean etc – plus extra storage space in the spare pocket) I found that it is possible to swap in a long, thin 500 ml flask although the elasticated retainer doesn’t fit (this wasn’t a problem).

soft flasks on Osprey Duro

250ml flasks supplied or find an alternative 500ml

I found that fastening the chest straps could be a bit fiddly, especially when wearing gloves. The plastic clips need to line up to locating points on a plastic rail and if you don’t line them up exactly they don’t clip on. A simple buckle would have been easier to fasten.

Osprey Duro chest strap

the clip was fiddly to fasten

I don’t use poles whilst running so I didn’t test the pole holders. I certainly think you’d have to be either very well practised or a contortionist to stow and remove them without taking the pack off!

The pack looks really neat, the bright yellow and black is a nice colour combination but mine came with grey chest straps that look a bit out of place (am I being too fussy?)!

What would I use it for?

The Duro 1.5 is just the right size for when you can fit all your kit in your bum bag but doing so makes it really big and bulky. So for example on runs when I want to carry waterproofs and a drink, yes I can fit it all into a bumbag but the bumbag then bounces around whilst I’m running. I would use the Duro 1.5 on long summer runs when I need to carry water but little in the way of clothing or on races where full kit is needed which makes my bumbag too bulky.

Recommended Retail Price is £60

Verdict:

A comfortable, well designed running pack with plenty of storage options despite its small size. Ideal for runs or races where you need to carry just that bit more than comfortably fits into a bumbag.

runner wearing Osprey Duro 1.5

a comfortable pack for racing or training

Available from Osprey https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/duro-1-5-17

Lake District Trail Running – book review

Lake District Trail Running is a handily sized book detailing 20 off road runs in the Lake District National Park

The selected routes range from 5km to 17km in length and vary in difficulty in terms of type of terrain and amount of ascent. Each run includes a brief description of the route including distance, ascent, navigational difficulty and estimated time to complete whilst an altitude profile shows you where you will encounter the ups and downs. A more detailed description breaks each route down into legs with easy to follow directions which are clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map extracts.

Lake District Trail Running

Lake District Trail Running

The softback book is well set out with the shortest runs at the front, the longest at the back making it easy to flick through and find the one you fancy. It is useful for runners of all experience and ability and is ideal for anyone planning a trip to the Lakes who doesn’t want to plan their own route. Packed with colour photos it is interesting to read and makes a great addition to any trail or fell runner’s library. It is even small enough to stuff into your bumbag!

Lake District Trail Running by Helen Mort is published by Vertebrate Publishing and retails for £12.95

Also check out the sister publication Peak District Trail Running: 22 off-Road Routes for Trail & Fell Runners.

Peak District Trail Running

Peak District Trail Running


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